1 Whitehead Street
Key West, Florida 33040
9:00am to 5:00pm.
Key West Shipwreck Museum
Wreck Ashore! With these words, enter the world of 1856 Key West… the era of the wreckers. At the Key West Shipwreck Museum you will step back into time as you discover Key West’s unique maritime heritage and how it became the richest city in the United States.
The KEY WEST MUSEUM combines actors, films and the actual artifacts from the 1985 rediscovery of the wrecked vessel Isaac Allerton, which sank in 1856 on the treacherous Florida Keys reef.
Join master wrecker Asa Tift and his wrecking crew as he tells you the story of how this unusual industry provided for the livelihoods of the early pioneers of Key West. You will be invited to climb the 65′ lookout tower and if need be, alarm Mr. Tift of any wrecks on the reef! Learn more about the wrecking industry and what Key West once was by clicking on the links above.
The brave wreckers would watch the reef night and day from observation towers (some over 90′ high). They would also patrol the reef in their own small vessels. When a wreck was spotted, the cry of “Wreck Ashore” would echo all over the island as men scrambled to the docks to join the race to the reef. The first man to reach the wreck became the “wrecking master” who controlled the salvage operation and got a larger share of the prize. The goods salvaged from the wreck would later be sold at auction in Key West with the wrecking courts awarding anywhere from 25 to 50 percent of the profit to the wreckers, depending on how dangerous and time-consuming the salvage operation had been.